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Wednesday 25 January 2012

It's not about History or Culture

It's about business and common sense. The seal hunt that is. No need to wonder what my stance is go here and read for yourself. I wrote that original piece in 2006 and not much has really changed except that each year the market for seal products, mostly pelts, seems to be declining.

That's where CBC's Fisheries Broadcast host John Furlong steps in (here) and begins to question where that industry is headed and if we should be taking a hard look at directing the industry or putting it down, instead of just letting it die a slow death. The article prompted some discussion but nothing too crazy until NDP Ryan Cleary recently stuck his head out of the parliament window and mused aloud about the end of the hunt.

Cleary has been seen a an ardent defender of the fishing industry in NL since before he ever became elected as an MP. And you would find many who agree with his passionate take on the issue in general. Which is why his recent comments on the seal hunt have confused many and angered some. It started with these comments as listed in this CBC story. In the piece Cleary is quoted as saying:
"Part of our history is also whaling, for example, and the day came when the whaling industry stopped," said Cleary, the MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl. "Now, is that day coming with the seal hunt? It just may be."

I could be mistaken but that sounds very much like he is saying that we should look at stopping the seal hunt. Those comments have seen Cleary in the middle of a bit of a firestorm of comments on the hunt and apparently he has found some supporters that he'd rather not have. A shortlist of the usual animal welfare nuts have noted Cleary's comments as proof that this once ardent defender of the bloody seal hunt has changed his tune. Cleary has since posted the press release he wrote to his blog "Fisherman's Road" over here. In the release he states:
"Let me re-iterate, I am not proposing to ban the commercial seal hunt in any way."
I think Cleary may now realize that he misspoke and is trying to do a little backpedaling. Fair enough, it happens. But it has just provided more ammunition for the crazies and may be one more nail in the coffin for part of an industry that Cleary certainly supports.

Here are some basic facts of the hunt as it currently exists:

  • Existing markets are disappearing. 
  • Animal rights groups are good at convincing rich people of things that aren't really true.
  • Seals eat a whole lot of other fish.
  • People of NL don't make very much $ from the hunt.  
  • Government of Canada is resistant to investing much $ into the industry. Markets, marketing, diversification, etc. 

Some people defend the seal hunt on the basis of tradition, history and culture. That argument doesn't belong in this conversation. If something is wrong then it's wrong, no matter how long of a tradition it is. But sealing is not wrong, it's not inhumane, it's not many of the things that the animal welfare groups claim, but it is dying none the less. The animal groups are winning because they are hitting the areas that impact the industry where it has trouble fighting back and it impacts the business rationale for the industry. Without markets it won't make money and it will eventually end. Unfortunately that means more seals to eat more fish, further preventing the recovery of fish stocks.

The seal hunt can be a viable industry but it will need a plan, new markets, and new products. Ryan Cleary knows this and he knows he misspoke. I think he supports the industry just as he always has and he'll have to weather this storm and convince the Government of Canada to get it's act together and figure out the best path forward for the sealing industry. At least I hope he misspoke.

If these things continue, the industry will not need to be ended, it will die on it's own without anyone's help. As a result our other fisheries will suffer.

1 comment:

  1. One thing I DISAGREE WITH is that the NL. people don't make much money on seals.The eskimo didn't make any money a thousand years ago either but it kept them alive .Enough said.